As an Army medic deployed to Afghanistan in 2003, life for CSU English graduate student Doug Hens was not always about analyzing the idiosyncrasies and deeper meanings of literature, describing his transition back into society as a process.
After spending eight months in the field treating patients’ wounds, the four-year veteran, who now suffers from what he calls the “universal problem” of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, was reluctant to share the details of his experiences abroad and was reserved in his response.
According to http://medterms.com, PTSD is “a common anxiety disorder that develops after exposure to a terrifying event or ordeal in which grave physical harm occurred or was threatened.”
Hens did not explain how PTSD and the war affect his life specifically, but said that the days are marked by periods of mental calm and upset.
“The outlook on life is negative at first, and as part of the process, it becomes more positive,” Hens said of his post-war outlook on life and the mental traumas he suffers to this day. “(The negative outlook and PTSD) goes away but then resurfaces,” Hens, quiet and serious, said.
Hens said his greatest opposition to the war was his physical location: isolated in the middle of dust-blown Afghanistan deserts for eight months without reprieve.
“(War is) sort of like a prison; you’re wired in and it’s not an enjoyable setting,” Hens said. “There were lots of causalities and the medical trauma aspect was not pleasant.”
At the present, Hens is readjusting to an academic life, free from war and is in the process of developing a veteran writing group that would meet two times a month. Hens said composition and non-fiction works are the group’s main focus.
By staying busy, being patient and making personal improvements, Hens has turned his outlook on life into a more positive experience and is doing this by “getting an education, maintaining relationships, living healthy and eating better.”
Sean Kelley, a sophomore chemical engineering major, is on the other end of the spectrum, and while he is part of the security forces in the International Guard, Kelley has yet to be deployed.
Kelley currently works as a security officer protecting the Greeley IG base and is enlisted until April 2011.
Knowing that there is “always a chance for deployment,” Kelley said he hopes to never see war, but remains ready.
“I’m ready to go if need be,” he said.
Before coming to CSU two years ago, Kelley attended Duquesne University in Pittsburg, Penn.
He said that he wants to stick with his current major because in the past, he couldn’t nail down what he wanted to do, moving from major to major a total of three times.
Kelley, who joined the IG because he wanted to serve “his country” and for the financial benefits, said that he believes the programs designed for veterans by Off Campus Student Services are a “good idea.”
Both Hens and Kelley attended the Veterans Welcome in the Lory Student Center Sunday where OCSS educated student veterans on the resources available to them at CSU.
Ann Ingala, Military Veteran Support Coordinator for OCSS who attended the event, said she hopes that the programs available will give veterans a greater sense of community on campus.
“The program will help student veterans gain and utilize their voice on campus,” said Ingala. “It allows them to become more welcome and get connected with other veterans.”
Speaking of this and future veteran events, Ingala said, “Hopefully this provides more visibility and provides an elevated awareness to the veterans on campus.”
Staff writer Justyna Tomtas can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.